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BCDA claims payments to officials’ personal accounts ‘legitimate’, despite violating law

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bcda-claims-payments-to-officials’-personal-accounts-‘legitimate’,-despite-violating-law

The Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA) has denied wrongdoing for PREMIUM TIMES’ exposé accusing it of making a slew of suspicious payments into the accounts of some private individuals last year.

The agency said the funds paid within five months were a series of “legitimate payments which passed through all extant Financial Regulations and Public Service rules.”

It is unclear what financial regulation the agency referred to, but chapter 7, section 713 of Nigeria’s civil service financial regulation bars agencies from paying public money into private bank account vice versa.

“An officer who pays public money into a private account is deemed to have done so with fraudulent intention,” the section stipulates.

The statement signed by the agency’s head of public affairs and protocol, Sadiq Isa, further said, in response to this newspaper’s FOI seeking clarification on the payments, “it directed two senior staffers to visit your office,” where they met this reporter.

Although the officials visited, they declined to make their position an official one and the agency did not reply a formal FOI request sent by this newspaper

Bygone

Mr Isa added that the reference to a 2018 story, which accused BCDA of overlooking tax clearance in awarding certain contracts to some companies, in our story was embarrassing.

He noted that the agency issued a rejoinder, in which BCDA “presented all required facts and clarifications,” and PREMIUM TIMES published.

This newspaper stands by the content of its story.

Mr Isa again defended BCDA in reference to another previous story which named the agency as one of the agencies used as conduits by federal lawmakers to siphon public funds.

“The National Assembly Members have the right to domicile Constituency Projects in any relevant MDA of their choice for execution,” he said.

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Mr Isa, however, failed to acknowledge a 2019 report by the anti-graft agency, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), which PREMIUM TIMES referenced in its story.

In the report, ICPC said under the guise of constituency projects, federal lawmakers, in connivance with executing agencies, have perfected fraudulent means of pocketing billions of naira.

It specifically called out the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and BCDA, describing them as “conduits for embezzling funds” by federal lawmakers because of the size, type and number of projects domiciled under them.

Independent checks by PREMIUM TIMES, in 2018, corroborated lawmakers’ interest in the two agencies: over 391 projects were smuggled by federal lawmakers into the budgets of the two agencies.

By 2019, over 300 projects found their way into the two agency’s budgets — this time around with a baggage of overpriced projects.

Read BCDA’s full statement below:


RE: AUTHORITY STEALING: HOW AGENCY HEADED BY BUHARI’S IN-


LAW, BCDA, MADE SUSPICIOUS PAYMENTS TO OFFICIALS: OUR


RESPONSE

Our attention has been drawn to a very tendentious publication by your


online publication Premium Times dated 20 th November 2020 with the


above caption. Ordinarily, as a reputable and responsible Agency, we


would have ignored the publication as it is not in our tradition to join


issues with media organisations, for the simple reason that facts would


always remain sacred. However, our silence could give concern to the


public, our staff and those living in Nigeria’s border communities which


we are mandated to serve. We have, therefore, decided to set the


records straight.

First, contrary to the impression which the story was intended to


convey, there was no lump sum payment to any staff as aggregated by


the publication. They were, instead, a series of legitimate payments


which passed through all extant Financial Regulations and Public


Service rules. Furthermore, were there to be anything untoward in the


payments they would not be on the Federal Government Treasury


Open Payment Platform.


On the specific issue of payment to staff for Duty Tour Allowance (DTA)


and conferences, the payments were done in accordance with all rules


and due process, as clearly presented in the Federal Government


Treasury Open Portal. These payments, made in 2019, have been


verified, authenticated and audited by Federal Government Agencies


responsible for routine and yearly auditing at the end of the 2019


Financial Year.

It is pertinent to point out that upon receipt of the FOI request, the


Agency directed two Senior Staffers to visit your office. They met with

your Reporter, Yusuf Akinpelu, in connection with the story and


presented for sighting, the original copies of memos, approvals,


payment vouchers, and receipts in respect of the mentioned payments.


Unfortunately, Premium Times decided to ignore all facts presented.


This is contrary to your allegation that the Agency did not oblige your


FOI request.

That the payments were for a whole range of activities- not less than 25


programmes- among which were trainings, conferences, projects


inspection, visitations, consultancy payments, project handing-over,


community engagement and sensitization in 21 states of the Federation


were conveniently ignored.

These payments were not personal or individual to the mentioned


officers, but to a group of staffers for expenditures that span over a


period of 5 (five) months. For clarity, the payments were not only with


respect to DTA, but also for other services, as stated above.

It must also be noted that when Premium Times wrote a report in 2018


about BCDA procurement processes, the Agency came out with a


rejoinder which was duly published by your media organization. In that


rejoinder, the Agency presented all required facts and clarifications. We


are, therefore, embarrassed that in your latest report under reference,


Premium Times repeated same old allegations which have since been


put to rest by our rejoinder. At no time did the Agency overlook the tax


clearance requirement in the procurement process, as alleged by the


report. For the avoidance of doubt, every firm shortlisted submitted a


tax clearance certificate, and this is verifiable. For emphasis, the Agency


is always guided by the Procurement Act in ALL it’s procurement


processes.

On your allegation that the Agency is one of the channels used by


Federal Lawmakers to routinely siphon public funds, such conclusion is


not only spurious but also a figment of the imagination of the Reporter.


Premium Times should know better that the National Assembly


Members have the right to domicile Constituency Projects in any


relevant MDA of their choice for execution.

The Agency has over the years cultivated a robust relationship with the


media who we believe are a key stakeholder to collaborate with for


effective communication with the citizens at the Border Communities


and other stakeholders in the country and around the world.


We strongly believe that the media being the “Fourth Realm of the


Estate” should always strive to ensure that only accurate information


based on proven facts are disseminated to the public. Fake news has


always dealt a severe blow to the level of trust between media


organizations, government MDAs and the public.

Premium Times has over the years exhibited character and compliance


to ethics, adherence to rules that uphold such values, ensuring that


what they disseminate is accurate, tolerant and legally compliant.


There is the need to sustain these most cherished values.

The Agency will continue to cultivate and collaborate with reputable


media organizations (Premium Times inclusive) towards the


achievements of its mandate for transparency and social inclusion.

Sadiq Abdullahi Isa


Head, Public Affairs and Protocol



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